Sustainability and carbon-free transparency with Google Cloud

By Brian Suk | Senior Solutions Architect

Sustainability is one of those topics that affects everyone in multiple ways. The socio-economic effects are well known, and the business benefits of focusing on sustainability are widely manifesting themselves, with examples ranging from financial institutions changing their investment strategies, to the formation of new companies that focus on fresh and innovative technologies that address this broad-reaching issue.

Both consumers and executives are growing increasingly concerned about climate change, and businesses are also coming to understand that sustainability is a competitive advantage. Because data centers have enormous carbon footprints, these environmental concerns extend to the public cloud market. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, data centers use 10 – 50 times as much energy as a typical commercial office building, collectively accounting for about 2% of total U.S. electricity use. In response, public clouds are investing in being greener. Google, in particular, has been a leader in this arena. And, with the launch of new innovations, Google Cloud customers can easily follow suit.

Enabling Google Cloud customers to design greener solutions

The great thing about choosing to run your workloads on Google Cloud is knowing not only that it’s striving to be the greenest platform possible, but also that there are innovations that extend to the platform’s customers, enabling the workloads themselves to also be as green as possible. Last month, Google shared the average hourly Carbon-Free Energy Percentage (CFE%) for the majority of its Google Cloud regions. Today, the company introduced a new tool leveraging that data –  a Google Cloud region picker that gives customers the ability to assess key inputs like price, latency to their end users and carbon footprint, as they choose which Google Cloud region to run in. These initiatives are great examples of how Google is empowering customers to directly leverage and incorporate this kind of innovation to design greener solutions. 

This latest initiative is only one of many that Google has embarked upon to make a positive impact on our planet. In honor of Earth Day 2021, let’s also take a look at how Google has been accelerating meaningful change throughout its history:

1. Google has a longstanding history of sustainability initiatives

Google was taking action to reduce its carbon footprint before it was cool. In 2007, Google published a report on The Case for Energy-Proportional Computing. At that point, Google was carbon-neutral, but company leadership didn’t feel that was good enough; Google wanted to go all-in on renewable and sustainable energy. In 2011, it was one of the first tech companies to sign a PPA for wind energy, and by 2013, Google had committed over $1 billion to renewable energy project investments

Today, Google is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in the world, and the average Google data center uses half as much energy as a typical data center.

2. Google has been 100% renewable since 2017

In 2019, Amazon announced its “Climate Pledge,” publicly committing to running the company on 80% renewable energy by 2024 and 100% by 2030. In comparison, Google is already there, having achieved its goal of operating on 100% renewable energy back in 2017.

The important flip side to these actions is the ability to report transparently. Google publishes annual environmental and responsible supply chain reports, as well as supplementary reports on the sustainability of specific products, and distributes them freely online. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, participates in the CDP global environmental disclosure system, which allows companies to submit environmental data in a standardized format. 

3. Google is committed to achieving 24×7 renewable energy

Google has declared its goal to have its data centers powered 24×7 by carbon free energy which primarily involves purchasing power from renewable sources. The interesting challenge to this is the fact that the Earth spins; because sunshide fades and wind speeds can slow, the amount of available renewable energy can vary, especially in different regions around the globe. To help address this, Google adds another dimension to the solution by constantly innovating the technology used in its data centers. Some of these innovations include using machine learning to predict power usage and wind power output, making every watt of power as efficient as possible, and creating time-shifting compute platforms.

Go green with SADA and Google Cloud

Here at SADA, we’re a leading partner with Google Cloud on a number of fronts, and we plan on continuing this leadership in the area of sustainability. This topic can become very important when making key decisions on technical architectures and implementation plans, as we all work to create solutions that leave less of an impact on the Earth.

In order to lead by example, SADA’s experts are looking for how to best incorporate the insight that the CFE% data gives us when evaluating the design of our internal workloads to ensure we run our workloads as cleanly as possible. Looking towards the future, we hope to be able to partner with Google and our customers to apply this kind of green thinking as a key decision metric, and ultimately scale the effect of workloads on Google Cloud running cleaner. This is our first step together towards creating greener solutions, and towards future innovations in sustainable cloud computing. We hope you will partner with us on this journey!

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